A Slippery Bar of Soap in a Large Bathtub

Journalist Vince Vawter looks back on writing Paperboy, his first novel for children

by Vince Vawter

May 16, 2016 “After my debut novel, Paperboy, won a 2014 Newbery Honor, a question gnawed at me: what do I know about children’s literature?” Prior to his appearance at the Children’s Festival of Reading, held in Knoxville on May 21, 2016, journalist Vince Vawter reflects on his surprising second career as a middle-grade novelist.

Published Monday, 16 May 2016

A Word’s Weight

A writer once called his Sunday School teacher the worst name he could think of—and it haunts him still

by Hadley Hury

April 29, 2016 In 1957, when I was eight years old, I called my Sunday School teacher, Miss Jeffie Lou Beecroft, a bad word. I didn’t call her the bad word to her face, but it was a very bad word, apparently the worst word I had in me at the time, and that’s what has mattered ever since.

Published Friday, 29 April 2016

How Charles Portis Kept Me Sane

Ray Midge didn’t lie down and give up when his wife ran off with her ex-husband, and there’s a lesson in his perseverance

by Gerald Duff

April 22, 2016 I crammed down all the medication allowed me, wrapped a bag of ice around the cast and what showed of my forearm, and lowered myself onto the bed beside my wife. She did her best to talk me down. “Don’t think so much,” she said. “Try to read something.” To humor her, I reached with my good hand and picked up the first book I touched on the bedside table. It was Charles Portis’s The Dog of the South.

Published Friday, 22 April 2016

Common Yellowthroat

During the spring migration of 1965, a teenager’s unhappy parents finally find common ground

by Lyda Phillips

April 4, 2016 For most of my life, I had paid almost no attention to my parents’ private lives. They were just there, usually a deterrent to whatever it was I wanted to do. But our three lives intersected the spring I was sixteen, the spring when they started watching birds and I, learner’s permit in hand, started to drive.

Published Monday, 4 April 2016

Just Another Body in the Water

On sabbatical in Baltimore, a Nashville poet considers our shared humanity

by Georganne Harmon

January 29, 2016 We look over the side of the pier and wonder where footholds might help a person up, but we can’t find any. We think of last night’s drinkers, one of whom might have stumbled in. We think of despair—so many homeless, so many loves gone bad—and we think of families, but we see no one who looks any more personally involved than simply considering the hazards of his own living.

Published Friday, 29 January 2016

Phil Levine and the Burger Bitch

There once was a Pulitzer Prize-winner who wrote poems about the working-class people most writers never notice

by Kate Daniels

January 8, 2016 When Philip Levine gave a poetry reading at Vanderbilt, the room was packed. But in his introduction to the event, Vereen Bell bypassed entirely the impressive literary credentials of the Pulitzer Prize-winner. He told, instead, the story of the Burger Bitch, how he had started talking with her one day as she went about her trash-dumping duties.

Published Friday, 8 January 2016

Asleep at the Wheel

On the launch date of his debut novel, a Chapter 16 writer considers the failures of his past

by Ed Tarkington

January 4, 2016 With the foolish, feverish urgency of a gambler betting all he has left on a longshot to win, I tried again, finishing another novel in less than a fifth of the time it had taken me to write the first one. There was a quick flurry of interest from editors but still no publishing deal. My agent—who had already sunk hundreds of hours into my career for nary a nickel, and hence will be my hero for life—remained hopeful. “I have a good feeling about this one,” she said. “Have faith.”

Published Monday, 4 January 2016

The Ecstatic Moment

Christmas memories can be complicated

by Maria Browning

December 18, 2015 The Brownings excelled at Christmas excess, and no one enjoyed it more than I did. Becoming an adult took most of the shine off the holiday for me. There is not much wonder in shopping and cooking and managing contentious relatives. But there was a time when Christmas wonder returned….

Published Friday, 18 December 2015

Goodbye, Kind Friend

With Tammy Derr, founder of Fairytales Bookstore, everyone was inside the circle

by Jen Wallwork Dominguez

December 17, 2015 I have no idea if Tammy heard any of the things I said to her. Perhaps she can tell me someday when I see her on the other side. But this I know for sure: that waiting room was filled with people, and every single one of them belonged there. Everyone was in because Tammy had drawn them in. That is Tammy’s legacy. The legacy of belonging, the legacy of community.

Published Thursday, 17 December 2015


It was a marriage made under the table

by Wayne Christeson

December 16, 2015 Mr. Gooch didn’t have much to say about his inclinations toward matrimony, except to point out the obvious fact that he couldn’t marry both girls. When the solution to the impasse finally appeared, no one could say exactly where it had come from or who had suggested it. It was as though it had been there all along but had only revealed itself when the neighbors’ thinking had matured enough to recognize it.

Published Wednesday, 16 December 2015

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